Summary: This series  is to guide you through Getting Started with Power BI.
The purpose of this series is  to provide a quick overview so you can direct resources and plan the introduction of Power BI to your company. – September 2018.  This is Part 2 – Power BI Basics:  Importing and Transforming Data
Article Type: How To
Related Product(s): This article relates to the following products:

  • Power BI
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Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI

There are many “How To” videos on Power BI but sometimes a quick overview to guide you through Getting Started with Power BI. Once the outline of the whole process has been understood (without detail at every stage) it is then possible to plan how your business should approach Power BI and which personnel should be involved at which stage.  The purpose of this series is to provide that quick overview so you can direct resources and plan the introduction of Power BI to your company.  This is Part 2 – Power BI Basics:  Importing and Transforming Data.

This Getting Started with Power BI series covers the following topics:

  1. Power BI tools & Licensing overview
  2. Importing and Transforming data
  3. Power BI Data Modelling
  4. Creating Visualizations
  5. Publish Docs to Power BI Service

Power BI Basics:  Importing and Transforming Data

The first step when developing a Power BI report using Power BI Desktop is to connect to some data and import it into your file.  The file extension for a document created using Power BI Desktop is “.pbix”.  It is possible to connect to a vast array of data sources both locally and online.

Getting Started with Power BI

A wizard will step you through the essential connection information relevant for the source type you select.

With Power BI Desktop it is possible to manipulate the data for the required analysis.  Some of this manipulation happens at the import stage (which we are outlining here) and some can be carried out on the data, post import, for charting purposes.  The transforming during the import process uses the language M (aka M Query).  Examples of basic transformations are:

  • Data type changes
  • Filtering (rows and/or fields)
  • Conditional Columns creation
  • Splitting columns
  • Renaming/reformatting

The menus available within Power Query Editor cover these and other basic transformations (under the Transform section).

Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI - Transforming Data

As transformations are applied to a table, a record of the action is recorded so that it can be reviewed/amended/removed later if necessary. The screenshot below shows how this record of actions to be applied is listed.

Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI - Data Transformation Actions

To edit a step select the cog (to the right-hand side of the step name) is selected.  Example of step edit pane below.

Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI - Edit Steps

In some instances, a cog is not visible.  This means that if a change is required it is necessary to go to the Advanced Editor.

Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI - Advanced Editor

Below is a view of the Advanced Editor pane where an understanding of M Query is required.

Power BI Basics: Getting Started with Power BI - Advanced Editor Pane

The screenshot above shows the area in which more advanced transformations can be written.  Information on M Query syntax can be found here.  The menu options do provide for many manipulations, so it is not always necessary to go into the Advanced Editor pane.


Read the next article (Part 3)  in this Getting Started with Power BI series:   Data Modelling